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Idaho unemployment rate falls as job seekers stop trying

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BOISE (AP) — Idaho’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.8%, mainly because many people stopped looking for work and were no longer being counted, state officials said Friday.

The Idaho Department of Labor said about 862,000 residents were employed and about 43,800 were looking for work.

The unemployment rate for November fell from 5.5% in October.

About 6,200 people landed a job last month despite the surging pandemic hampering the economy.

But so many people stopped looking for work that the labor force shrank to just above 900,000. That’s a key number in the formula that determines the state unemployment rate.

“That’s really what the numbers tell us,” said the Labor Department’s Craig Shaul. “The unemployment rate went down because there are fewer people in the labor force looking for work.”

Sometimes people stop looking for jobs because they have given up after months of trying. But the surging pandemic in Idaho could also be causing some people to feel unsafe in the workforce.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has reported a total of more than 126,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,259 deaths. The positivity rate of people being tested for COVID-19 has been around 20%, well above the less than 5% officials want to see.

So far, nearly 1,000 frontline health care workers have been vaccinated in the state.